James Harden went ballistic when the Houston Rockets needed him to, but his superlative 45-point effort in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals will only represent a momentary impediment to the Golden State Warriors’ championship conquest. With the Rockets’ season on the line, Harden led Houston to a 128-115 win, flipping his internal switch with frightening ease and tying Stephen Curry for the league lead with his second 40-point outing of the postseason. The 45 points also represent a new playoff career high for the MVP runner-up, who added nine rebounds and five assists to a staggering final line.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Harden joined LeBron James, Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan as the only players to finish a playoff game with at least 45 points, nine boards and five dimes in the last 30 years. Two days removed from scoring 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting during a 35-point loss, Harden’s shot chart assumed a much happier form, according to NBA.com “When you have a tough time, you’re not very happy with everything,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale told reporters after the win, according to CBSSports.com’s James Herbert. “He was extremely unhappy yesterday, and took it out [on them]. But that’s what you gotta do. You gotta take it out on them.”
Thirty-three of Harden’s 45 points came after halftime, and he credited the rapid revival to the mindset that perpetuated his greatness all season long. “Just being aggressive,” Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke during his on-court postgame interview. “You know, mixing it up a little bit, moving my body more. Trying to get my teammates open shots, and working off that.” Thanks to Harden, the Rockets are now 4-0 in elimination games, and their season has temporarily been saved.
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